Hybrid crystals fuse semiconductors and metal

"We think that this new approach could ultimately form the basis for future superconducting electronics," says Thomas Sand Jespersen. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Tomorrow’s computers and electronics will require extremely small, high-quality circuits. A new hybrid material could pave the way.

Comprised of both a semiconductor and metal, the material has a special superconducting property at very low temperatures. The superconductor in this case is aluminium.

Thomas Sand Jespersen, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen who helped create the material, says it’s a way to make a perfect transition between the nanowire and a superconductor.

interface between a semiconductor and metal
The interface between the semiconductor and the metal is perfect and establishes the new superconducting hybrid crystals, which could ultimately form the basic for future superconducting electronics.

How to link up nanowires

Nanowires are extremely thin nanocrystal threads used in the development of new electronic components, like transistors and solar cells. Part of the challenge of working with nanowires is creating a good transition between these nanowires and an electrical contact to the outside world.

Up until now, researchers have cultured nanowires and the contact separately. However, with the new approach, both the quality and the reproducibility of the contact have improved considerably.


The atoms sit in a perfectly ordered lattice in the nanowire crystal, not only in the semiconductor and the metal, but also in the transition between the two very different components, which is significant in itself, explains Peter Krogstrup, an assistant professor who helped develop the contact.

Krogstrup says it is the ultimate limit to how perfect a transition one could imagine between a nanowire crystal and a contact. He thinks it opens many opportunities to make new types of electronic components on the nanoscale to study the electrical properties with much greater precision than before.

In their publication in Nature Materials, the research group has demonstrated this perfect contact and its properties and has also shown that they can make a chip with billions of identical semiconductor-metal nanowire hybrids.

“We think that this new approach could ultimately form the basis for future superconducting electronics,” says Jespersen.

Microsoft, the Carlsberg Foundation, and the Lundbeck Foundation supported the work.

Source: University of Copenhagen